“Traveling solo means getting to know the real you.” Yes, it may be cheesy, but this quote speaks to the truth that each and every one of us truly has the freedom to explore the world around us–even if it is alone. The best thing to remember is that you may or may ;) learn something new about yourself along the journey. Because as the Italians say, la vita è dolce. 

I never quite understood people who enjoyed doing things consistently on their own until I got to college. While at a young age, I learned to travel places to visit my grandparents on my own, as I grew up, there always seemed to be this looming idea that I was going to have to learn to navigate daily life on my own–leaving behind the constant feelings of being connected and actually learning to sit with my own thoughts. As I started my freshman year, I began to sit with the fact that classes weren’t with people I knew, weekends were no longer spent playing on my high school sports team and I didn’t get to go home at the end of the night to dinner with my parents. Sad, right? Yet, with time and a little bit of actual effort on my part, I began to shift these changes in my life to become the opportunity to find more about myself–a time of unexpected growth. 

Yet, having come from a close extended family, grown up in a cul-de-sac neighborhood, and studied at the same school for eight years, I realized that my conditioning around being other people was quite deeply ingrained into my consciousness. It was going to have to take some radical change, which my English professor is always talking about nowadays.  I was going to have to break free from the feelings of needing to be with other people and learn to find joy in life outside of constant companionship. And don’t get me wrong, I have always been quite an independent person in terms of doing school work or general tasks, but when it came time for weekends or plans outside of school—reality slowly started to sink in. I wasn’t that good.  

Once my parents dropped me off in New York City for my first semester of sophomore year, I knew I was in for a fun wake-up call. And yes, I can tell that you think I am being pessimistic, and I won’t lie, I was not entirely thrilled that I was going to have to start somewhere new and learn from the group up, but ever so slightly I began to realize that the joy of being young and in your 20s is that if you have the motivation to do something there should literally be nothing to stop you from doing it unless it literally extends beyond practical sense. Then by all means, please don’t do it. 

I motivate you to take the time to evaluate what you like, not what you like to do per se, but the things that when someone mentions it in a conversation, you feel as if you could explode because you love it so much. This could be anything from art to niche coffee to plants to tennis to crime podcasts to cooking shows—because all is fair in love and hobbies. By knowing what really brings you joy, the time that you have when you are alone will begin to become fulfilling and worthwhile. Since I had a firm idea of what I liked to do before coming to Barnard, I began to seek out the spots or places through which I could enjoy an experience even if it was not with my close friends. I wandered into the Met listening to music, I sat in Central Park for an entire afternoon when the weather was nice to finish a book, I took myself to get an Italian sandwich I had been craving forever and I learned there was a Formula One car on display in a store and went to go see it. 

And yes—it was kinda comforting to begin to enjoy my own company in ways that were fulfilling, taking the time to sit with myself and watch the world around me. I had the power, I had the choices and if I wanted to I could make it happen. I discovered hidden places, new flavors and a passion for a sport I didn’t even really know existed seven months ago–bringing new hobbies and things to talk about into my life. 

Because in the end, within a city as large as New York, I can guarantee you that from anywhere on campus to downtown to the parks here and there, you will begin to find the places that you can just be. You will not feel the need to put on a show or constantly have your social battery charged, but you can just exist in the joy that there is no pressure to be who you are and do what you love. Being alone has many different connotations, but with time, I have begun to appreciate the space I have to be alone to be more like a retreat than a punishment. I have not only realized how much more present I am when I’m with friends, but how much beauty there is in the world when I take the time to live in it authentically. 

New York via Bwog Archives